Twin Peaks’ Amy Shiels on Her Tragic Backstory for Candie and Why She’s Like a ‘Little Dog’

Candie (center), played by Amy Shiels. Photo: SHOWTIME

Despite episode ten of Twin Peaks: The Return giving ample screen time to the seemingly never-ending instances of violence against women in the Lynchian canon, brief moments of levity still managed to shine through — as evidenced by the reintroduction of the pink-clad Candie in Las Vegas. When we lay eyes on Candie, she’s sauntering around a suite while trying to kill a fly, a quest that comes to a screeching halt when she hits her boss, Rodney, in the head with a remote control in hot pursuit. Next time we see her, she’s in hysterics begging for forgiveness, and the recurring theme of abuse is on the forefront of our minds once again.

Piqued by the circumstances surrounding her character’s return, Vulture hopped on the phone with Irish actress Amy Shiels this week to talk about Candie’s backstory, her relentless optimism, and why the Mitchum brothers should be considered her “saviors.”

Can I start by saying how much I love Candie’s pink outfit? I think I’ve found my new Halloween costume this year.
It is really incredible. I wish I could take credit for it, but it’s all for the costume department. Why wait until then? Why wait until Halloween? This is an outfit you can wear every day, as Candie proves. It’s an outfit for any occasion. I want people to start dressing as Candie.

Walk me through how you got cast in the show — did you have any ties to David previously?
Years ago, I had screen-tested for Randall Wallace, who’s an amazing director and writer. I was auditioning for a book he was going to make into a film, but it never got made. Years later, I got a call from my agent in London saying, “Amy, casting director Johanna Ray is visiting from America and she really wants to meet with you.” It was so random. I came to meet her and she said, “Amy, Randall showed me your screen-test and I loved it, and I think you would be perfect for Lynch and you would be a great match for him.” Eventually, when I moved to America, I gave her a call and I was like, “Hey, Johanna, I’m here. Help me out.” And that she did.

We don’t meet David before casting. Johanna will interview you on tape, and then I was told I got the part a week or two after. And then they sent out the script, just my pages. And then you have a one-on-one with David before you start, just to talk about the part and what he wants.

When I talked with Madeline Zima, she said Johanna asked very vague, open-ended questions and she just ended up talking about Kurt Vonnegut most of the time. Did you have a similar interview experience?
Kind of. Mine was probably more playful than that. I just fooled around. I’m not sure I’m allowed to say what I was asked! I loved Madeline’s part, though. She was just so wonderful and mysterious and sexy.

I hope you don’t meet a demise as gruesome as that!
Hey, not all of us are killed! [Laughs.]

We’re reintroduced to Candie and get into her mind-set thanks to an extended fly-swatting sequence this week. How did David direct you in that scene specifically, since it’s well over a minute of you walking around aimlessly?
I was told I was going to have this red handkerchief and I’m going to be swatting a fly — the fly is flying all over the room and you’re going to keep on trying to hit it. It’s going to be down there; it’s going to be up here; it’s going to be over there. I knew we really had to just go for it. David would shout direction while I was walking around the room. It’s up your left! It’s down! It’s to the side! It’s to the right, Candie! It was really fun. And then you reach down and you pick up the remote control, and then it goes up in the air, and then it goes down and lands on his face, and then it goes off again. David was very specific. I didn’t feel silly doing it with Candie, because I felt so crazy all of the time anyway. I was in her world every day. I was like, “This is just a normal day in Candie’s world!”

Although the fly-swatting scene seems to first function as comic relief, it later changes meaning a bit when Candie continuously asks Rodney, “Can you ever love me after what I did?” — which many viewers read as an indication that she had been abused in the past. Would you agree with that?
My personal process for my own backstory brought that about, yes. I feel in my backstory that the brothers are actually saving her. She just loves them and appreciates everything in the world. That’s why I love Candie and adore and cherish her so much — it’s because she really sees everything through new eyes and has been through something so traumatic in her past, so absolutely hideous, that now that she’s been saved by these boys, she loves them and she sees everything and appreciates it all. Everyone takes air-conditioning for granted; it’s just everywhere. But no, not to Candie. It’s probably the first time she’s had air-conditioning in her life. It’s amazing. Everything is so good. She loves her bosses, and that’s why she was so traumatized, because they were so good to her and she hurt him so badly. Especially when she saw the blood the second time, that was tragic. His face — what has she done to her savior? She’s just a wonderfully kind and appreciative person who really feels people’s joys and pains and emotions. She’s adorable and loves everyone.

What else have you imagined for her backstory?
In my mind, Candie is someone who has possibly been human trafficked her whole life. I think she had something really awful like that, and she was saved by the brothers. When I watched the episode on Sunday, it was interesting because I hadn’t heard the line: “She has nowhere else to go.” That wasn’t in my script because I wasn’t in the room.

I’m glad you brought that quote up, because until one of the brothers said that, it was really ambiguous as to who was acting as Candie’s abuser. It solidified, in my mind, that they were being her protectors.
Absolutely. For me, it also solidified what I had been thinking of their friendship and relationship to each other.

How would you define the trio’s relationship, then?
She just adores them. They’re her saviors. She just wants to make them happy — there’s nothing sexy about it, nothing like that. It all comes from a place of absolute love, adoration, and appreciation. It’s almost like she’s their adopted child, in a way. She’s their little sister. She’s so kind and generous and appreciative of them and wants to make sure they’re always looked after and okay. She’s almost like their pet! She’s like their little dog.

We also get an extended scene via the casino’s security camera while Candie’s on the gambling floor. What were you actually mouthing while doing those wonderfully animated arm movements? Was it actually about the air-conditioning?
It was! That was so much fun shooting that scene. Tom Sizemore was trying not to laugh the entire time. I improvised for five minutes about air-conditioning units in Candie’s world. It was so fun. [Laughs.] When we cut … Tom is a genius. We burst out laughing as soon as they called “cut!” and he repeated every single word back to me. He remembered five minutes of that monologue. A lot of the time, when you’re improvising, you’re not going to massively remember what you just said. So it was wonderful to hear it back. I was like, “Look at this space; look at the air conditioners.” I feel Tom Sizemore would actually be able to tell you what Candie was saying better than I could. Shoot him an email or a tweet, I’m sure he’ll be obliging. Recently, we had a cast-and-crew screening, and we were laughing about it again. We had too much fun that way.

And it was an especially nice contrast for an episode that was so inherently violent in nature.
People were saying that on set, too, actually, but of course I didn’t know because I had no idea what was going on with other characters besides my own. I was in Candie’s world. It’s an enchanting world to be in and the best four months of my life.

How did you master the art of the over-the-top ugly-cry face so well?
That’s just how I cry. [Laughs.] I’m very into the physical side of acting, so when I have a new character, I always approach it from body language first. I think that’s the best way to communicate; what we say is through our body. I embraced that first with Candie. I feel the costume really helps with that, too. I had a tutu at home that I loved rehearsing in, to get into her at night. That helped with her fragility. I also researched old movie stars and would watch their work. But also, I’m not massively vain, so I don’t really care about looking pretty when I cry. What a great part. It’s not about being a beautiful woman; it’s about being a beautiful woman on the inside. When we cry, we don’t look pretty. We don’t! We look ridiculous! Have you ever looked in the mirror when you cry? It’s not the time for a selfie! I really wanted to go for it. It wasn’t about looks; it was about feeling.

Twin Peaks’ Amy Shiels on Her Tragic Backstory for Candie